United States District Court, E.D. California
I.F. et al., Plaintiffs,
CITY OF VALLEJO, et al., Defendants.
CAROLYN K. DELANEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
pending before the court is plaintiff I.F.'s motion to
compel discovery production. (ECF No. 27.) This matter came
on regularly for hearing on July 10, 2019. The parties filed
a joint statement regarding the discovery dispute on July 3,
2019. (ECF No. 28.) Maya Sorensen appeared on behalf of
plaintiff I.F. and Timothy Smyth appeared on behalf of
defendants. Plaintiff R.F. was not represented at the
hearing, but Ms. Sorensen indicated that plaintiff R.F. joins
in the motion to compel.
hearing, Lieutenant Steve Cheatham was present with a
complete copy of Officer Ryan McMahon's personnel file
from the City of Vallejo Police Department, which the court
reviewed in camera. After reviewing the file,
carefully considering the parties' joint statement and
the applicable law, and good cause appearing therefor, the
court FINDS AS FOLLOWS.
bring this 1983 survivor action against the City of Vallejo
and Officer McMahon, relating to the use of lethal force
against Ronell Foster, which occurred on February 13, 2018.
(See generally ECF No. 8.) Plaintiffs bring claims
for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment, as
well as a Monell claim, and several pendant state
law claims. (Id.)
August 8, 2018, plaintiff I.F. served her Request for
Production of Documents and Things (Set One)
(“RFP1”), which included a request for Officer
McMahon's personnel file, including hiring, performance
evaluations, background investigations, and his mental and
physical condition at the time of the incident. (ECF No. 28
at 2, 4.) Defendants produced some responsive information but
withheld other information, raising various objections
including relevance and asserting the official information
privilege. (See ECF No. 28-1.) The parties met and
conferred regarding the disputed information on May 30, 2019
and on June 18, 2019. (ECF No. 18 at 2.) The pending motion
to compel ensued. (ECF No. 27.)
seek to compel production of “information regarding
Defendant McMahon contained in RFP1 Request Nos. 6
(Defendants hiring and background investigations), 8
(Defendants' job performance evaluations and supervision
[from seven years prior to the incident to the present]), and
10 (Defendants' physical and mental condition during the
incident).” (ECF No. 28 at 5.) The parties dispute
whether the information sought is relevant and, if it is
relevant, whether it is subject to the official document
privilege. (See generally, ECF No. 28.)
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[p]arties may
obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is
relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional
to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the
issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the
parties' relative access to relevant information, the
parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in
resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of
the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.
Information within this scope of discovery need not be
admissible in evidence to be discoverable.”
determining whether the information plaintiffs seek is
privileged, the court must first determine if it is relevant.
Although in general the party seeking to compel discovery
bears the burden of showing that his request satisfies the
relevance requirement of Rule 26, the court in Kelly v.
City of San Jose, 114 F.R.D. 653, 667-68 (N.D.Cal.1987),
concluded that in the context of civil rights excessive force
cases against police departments, plaintiffs may suffer great
difficulties if courts impose demanding relevancy standards
on them. Because it is unlikely that such a plaintiff would
know the contents of confidential police files, the court
suggests that it should be “sufficient for a plaintiff
to show how information of the kind that is likely to be in
the files could lead to admissible evidence.”
Id. at 667-68.
Soto v. City of Concord, 162 F.R.D. 603, 610 (N.D.
B. Official Information Privilege
disclosing party may seek to withhold relevant discovery if
such information is privileged. “The scope of an
evidentiary privilege in a 42 U.S.C. [§] 1983 civil
rights action is a question of federal law. State law may
provide a useful referent, but it is not controlling.”
Breed v. U.S. Dist. Court for N. Dist. of
California, 542 F.2d 1114, 1115 (9th Cir. 1976); see
also Kelly v. City of San Jose, 114 F.R.D. 653, 655
(N.D. Cal. ...